Marketing Content Strategy

One Content Marketing Prediction for 2015, in Six Parts

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“I may be surprised. But I don’t think I will be.”

Andrew Strauss

If you have already blocked off your calendar and scheduled your “out of office” reply for February 27, 2015, you know a little about great storytelling. Extraordinary stories draw you in with something curious or unexplained. Small twists keep you coming back as the story unfolds, fighting the urge to jump to the end, knowing that to do so would deprive you the joy of the telling. I mention this because I have just one content marketing prediction to offer for 2015: We will begin to tell extraordinary stories together.

Moving stories aren’t measured in “bounce rate”; they are measured in “binge watching.” In the early days of content marketing, brand marketers were discovering why brands might want to tell stories. Now they are asking how to tell them best. As we move from why to how, marketers will do six things differently that will measurably improve the experiences they share:

Part 1: We’ll Discover How to Tell Stories Differently

In the early days of radio, broadcasters read news provided by newspapers and performed “radio plays” on air. It took a few years before they discovered the promise of the new medium—the things radio could do that print and stage could not, as well as its new limits. The early days of television were no different, with dramas happening in front of mics and curtains until we figured out how to tell stories on TV.

Today, our storytelling largely imitates newspaper and television formats, despite the promise and limitations of this unique medium. Yes, we have adapted, moving to minute-long videos and shorter stories. This space is interactive, but our stories are not; we are still figuring out how to capture the mind in an interactive storytelling medium.

Young man in swimming cap and goggles swim using breaststroke technique

It will take a number of bold experiments to figure out the “new thing,” each contributing something to the final form. Perhaps Second Life was a step in this direction. Microsoft is experimenting with a storytelling platform called Project Spark. Facebook expects to make the jump with Oculus. It’s hard to tell what form storytelling might take; it’s not hard to know, however, that it won’t be stacking a short news video on top of a related article.

Part 2: We’ll Begin to Do It on a Grand Scale

Should Coke have bid for rights to broadcast the Olympics? I asked that question a month ago, comparing Coke’s marketing spend with what NBC paid for exclusive rights to the games over an 11-year period.

That example might seem farfetched today, but in a world where marketers want to connect with people through stories worthy of binge watching, why wouldn’t Coke want to share some of the world’s best stories every two years?

Why wouldn’t Princess Cruises produce the modern equivalent of The Love Boat? Consider what an extraordinary storytelling experience that show was and how it served as a showcase for Princess cruises.

“Love, exciting and new

Come aboard. We’re expecting you.

Love, life’s sweetest reward.

Let it flow, it floats back to you.

 

Love Boat soon will be making another run

The Love Boat promises something for everyone

Set a course for adventure,

Your mind on a new romance.”

You can’t write this stuff—except that, of course, they did. The Love Boat ran for a decade, becoming a top-five show in prime time. It was dubbed or subtitled for 26 countries. It has been watched by tens of millions of people, all of whom saw strangers meet, drink, and dance under the moon and fall in love on the Pacific Princess. It remains in syndication to this day.

In 2015, a handful of risk-taking marketers will show the industry why large brands should bet big on original storytelling. And they’ll show how those brands earn disproportionate rewards when they do.

Part 3: Marketers Will Use Storytelling to Humanize Their Brands

The best stories connect emotionally with their viewers, helping build closer connection. P&G’s Always brand won accolades for calling attention to how society portrays girls.

Part 4: Those That Are Authentic and Transparent Will Win

Despite the good story, critics called them to the mat. They questioned why Always was willing to invest in telling those stories, but had not provided significant financial support to organizations that empower women. They argued a simple point: Brands that want to participate in a movement must support it in tangible ways.

In a social world, where individual judgments (right or wrong) can cascade across cultures, we reject attempts at manipulation. We mock half truths. We call out bias. The stories we tell must echo our own values. If they do, they are far more powerful. If we make it up, we’ll lose the very people we’re trying to reach.

Part 5: We’ll Learn the Language

It’s hard to tell someone a story if you don’t share a common tongue. When a brand learns to tell stories that resonate with its audience, it wants to tell them on a global scale. The best brands will transcreate their content, adapting it for the cultures and places where it is told.

Part 6: “Intrapreneurs” Will Drive Success at Major Brands . . .

. . . and the marketing leaders inside those brands are likely to fit that role. Intrapreneurs are those who dare to take risks inside an organization. They reject the old way of doing things and decide to do something new to help the brand break out. Those risk takers will define the modern story, focus resources on creating brilliant experiences, and lead their brands boldly into the future. When they do, they’ll join us in Moving Stories. Forward.

And there you have it—my content marketing prediction for 2015. Happy holidays, fellow storytellers. Let’s do remarkable work together in 2015. And since you’ve stuck with me through all this prognosticating, I’ll offer one other prediction: By February 28, you’ll be out of red wine and anxious for House of Cards season four.

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